School Lunches (Groan)

11 10 2012

Our dinner conversations are usually launched by my 8th grader, a girl of many opinions. She’ll start out by asking each of us how our day went, or sometimes what we did that day. Depending on the answers, or with no relation to the answers, we move on to other topics.

Last night, Paloma (the 8th grader) was telling us about the fruit they had that day in the school lunch. She talked about how grossed out the kids were, and she went on from there, just generally trash-talking the fruit.

I wondered why she was expending negative energy on the school fruit, because she brown bags it for lunch and she loves fruit. When I bring fresh fruit into the house, I have to stash some in a far corner or I’ll never get any. Same with canned fruit. She. Loves. Fruit.

So, I asked her why having fruit with the school lunch was a bad thing, and she told me it’s not the fact that it’s “fruit” (she did the air quotes), but that it was disgusting, slimy, limp, and gross fruit.

I replied that the schools were trying to bring healthier choices to kids, and that providing fruit was a good option. Didn’t she, my fruit-loving girl, agree?

Yes, she did agree, but “you gotta have the good stuff. No kid is gonna eat it if it looks like that. And, it tastes gross.”

This change that kids are seeing in school lunches comes about because of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It’s legislation that has good intentions and will, I believe, make a difference in the end.

But the trial-and-error phase is painful.

Kids around the country are complaining about the quantity and quality of the food offered each day, and some parents and others are complaining that the allotted calories per lunch don’t take into account the active lifestyle that many kids have at school.

Some kids get their primary nutrition for the day from the school breakfast and lunch, and some kids need help in judging their nutritional requirements because they, like so many adult Americans, are packing on unhealthy body weight.

The fact is, a healthy diet helps one’s body stay healthy. But, as a reasonable adult who knows the importance of good nutrition, would you eat “disgusting, slimy, limp, and gross fruit?” Neither would I, and apparently, neither will many of my daughter’s classmates.

It’s not enough to say our kids should eat healthier, we have to show them what that means and provide for them food that looks and tastes good. We eat with our eyes first, to quote about a thousand chefs.

We need solutions like the Farm to School programs popping up around the country.

What programs are working for your school? Or do you have ideas for programs that might get our kids excited about healthy food and help our schools serve food that the kids actually want to eat?

By Trish Parnell


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